Mary Anne Isaac
Durban - Travelling has always been at the top of my to-do list since childhood, although a wish on my favourite star could not fade away my family’s priorities at that time.
The past three days of my life, spent at the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg, welcomed a side of me that I never knew existed - a fun side.
During my Berg experience, I discovered and corrected my misconceptions about travel and travelling. For me, travelling would be your everyday journeys to work, shopping malls or visiting friends.
Real travel, as far as I can see, is when you break your piggy bank for that much-anticipated once or twice in a lifetime experience.
Being a big city girl from Durban and then experiencing the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Tourism experience, was an incredible adventure - mainly because I love peaceful, calm settings and being outdoors.
It was a long drive to our destination, Alpine Heath Resort in Drakensberg, and I do admit that I caught a few winks whilst on the road. Yet I could not resist smiling at the luscious green meadows and beautiful farmlands that stretched afar, unspoilt by the piercing sounds of traffic or the shuffling of busy bodies.
When we finally arrived and emerged from the minibus, we were welcomed by icy air and scents of rich flora and fauna. The view was a framed vista of the enormous mountain tops that shadowed the plateaus, all the way across the windswept meadows, right to the welcoming doors of our chalets and the hotel foyer.
San rock art embodied on the restaurant walls, while the relaxed ambience complemented the classic, elegant decor.
My chalet, which I shared with my colleagues, was like a mini version of a London townhouse-although, a South African version. A bigger treat was in store for me - we drew straws and I got to sleep in the master bedroom!
After settling in at our cosy chalets, we assembled for a sumptuous, warm and wholesome meal and, with full stomachs and droopy eyes from a long drive, we turned in.
The next day proved to be an open jar of fun, adventure and excitement from the moment I climbed off my bed and gazed in disbelief at the breathtaking view of the mountains from my bedroom.
At breakfast, I struggled to stay focussed at the thought of what adventures laid ahead; horse back-riding, zip-lining and bungee jumping.
Adventure number one was a chance to go horse riding.
I was all excitement and confidence before meeting the horses at the stables but, somehow, sitting on one had me a bit more hesitant. The ground seemed so much further away in the saddle than when I was on the ground, and being short didn’t help.
But I was not going to back down.
My breathing quickened, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I felt queasy. All this as a result from hearing the safety precautions which stated that you could die from a kick, or if your horse went ballistic, he could be gone like the wind.
So, I offered to ride the pony instead but the horse-stable manager, Jack, declined. He slowly eased us out of the paddock and calmly handed over the reins. Before I could completely come to grips with what had happened, it was Lukas (my horse) and I, trotting alongside the mountains to the path ahead.
Throughout the journey, I felt like I was being controlled, instead of controlling Lukas. Jack mentioned that Lukas was a strong, stubborn horse. I discovered that not only was he strong but he was naughty and had an eating disorder too.
It seemed as if he was always hungry and kept bending down to eat grass, when I least expected it. Of course, I did my best to show him who was boss and endeavoured to direct him back into place, with somewhat mixed success.
After a long and very bumpy ride, I made a mental promise to never do it again, but thinking about it now, I just might do it once again - the fun outweighed the scary.
After catching my breath from the endurance of the horse ride, I decided to take on the next challenge. I participated in zip-lining and really enjoyed it. I unleashed a side of me that I never knew that existed.
I was always a timid child around the dinner table, calm and shy. Here was a new me, out of my comfort zone, out of my shell and in my new element.
This experience taught me the value of life and how to have fun.
My first time at the Berg was awesome and it will not be a last.
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